I'm a bit torn about posting reviews of books that are not available to the general public yet. On the one hand, I'm all excited about a great book that I just read and want to share; on the other, I know I get frustrated when I read a review of a book then find out I have to wait months to buy it. I sympathize with those who have to wait for the actual publication date. I wonder, should I wait closer to the date of, or after, publication? And I do have some reviews in my draft file, waiting to be posted. But maybe readers are happy for the heads up. And, there's the conversation element; when I read someone else's review of a book, I get inspired to post my own, or want to have a conversation via blog about that book.
For those of you who may be wondering how the heck a person can review books before the publication date, here is the simple explanation.
Most publishers have advance review copies of books made. They are also called ARCs, galleys, review copies, etc. Most are paperback; none are in final form. Maybe it's just a few typos that will be fixed; upon occasion, more significant rewrites are done between the advance copy and the real publication date. A cover design may change.
The purpose of ARCs: to see what the finished product looks like; to get an early copy into the hands of reviewers and buyers (both bookstores and libraries); and to start buzz.
How does a regular person get ARCs? Well, a regular person isn't supposed to get them because they aren't for the public. I get my ARCs several ways: one, thru work, as the current selector of YA fiction for MPOW. The publishers provide some to libraries, hoping that I'll read it and say the library must have 100 copies.
Two, as I've posted on this blog (see the bottom of my sidebar), some publishers and agencies donate copies here for the purpose of review. This is done with the clear understanding that any review is independent of the donation; it can be good, bad, or indifferent. My personal policy is that I rarely blog about books I don't like. While those donations make it easier for me to read certain books, because I have access to them, it doesn't affect how I review books.
Three, by attending professional conferences and conventions (such as BEA and ALA) where publishers give away ARCs to conference attendees. Seriously! You walk thru the convention hall and there are piles of books, saying "pick me, pick me." Sometimes you actually have to say NO to the free books, because it's too much too carry.
Four, from the authors themselves. The authors get ARCS for promotion purposes, which may be a contest, another give-a-way, or giving it to a reviewer (including a blogger.)
The most important thing to remember about these: they are not the finished book. The author gets no money from the initial distribution of these items. And I haven't paid for them. Which means, what do I do with them when I'm done?
Selling ARCs is a big no-no. As an unfinished product, it's not fair to represent on ebay or elsewhere that it's the same as the final version. Plus, it takes revenue away from authors (and I believe in capitalism). So I tend to pass them along when it's "promotional" by giving them to another reviewer/blogger or librarian; I've also used them with teen groups in the library, explaining to the teens that it isn't the final book and requesting their feedback for purposes of purchasing, promoting, booktalking, and reviewing. Finally, I throw them out.
But wait, you say! You just said it's not the final final version. True that. If reading typos in a book drives you crazy, you'd hate ARCs. You have to be willing to ignore those glitches. Because I do sometimes quote, I try to note when I've reviewed from an ARC, so you're not going, "huh, that's not what I read." And it's one of the reasons I hesitate with negative reviews based on ARCS; what if what I disliked gets changed? I've read at least one author blog about revising an ending from ARC to final copy; and during BEA, I heard rumors about a book that wasn't ready getting put into ARC format because they wanted something in people's hands. So I assume that if I've read something I liked, they're not going to change it; but if I read something I didn't, wait to see the final version in case it's fixed.